Securing e-mail

Every once in a while, I get e-mails from server admins with host connection information. This tends to get under my skin, though I admit to sending similar information from time to time. The thing is, e-mail is so darned good at delivering this kind of information. The problem, of course, is that e-mail is typically not secure. So, sending information like user names, passwords or other information like social security numbers or banking information via e-mail can be a pretty serious risk.

So, today when I received yet more user names and passwords via e-mail, and then needed to pass that information on to a person I work with, I figured it was as good a time as any to look into securing e-mail.

I’ve known about PGP, but have had issues getting it working in former versions of Apple’s Mail application. So, upon Googling for apple mail encryption or some-such phrase, I found a few helpful resources.

The first link above is a walk-through on getting S/MIME set up with Apple Mail. S/MIME seems to be an alternative to PGP. The short story is that I went ahead and got a certificate from Thawte, installed it into a special keychain on the Mac, sent a signed message to my co-worker while he was doing the same. Now we have each other’s public keys stored in our respective programs and we each have our own private keys, so we can send signed and encrypted e-mail to each other.

So, from here on out, I have a safer way of sending sensitive information to some select people.

And, I need to give credit to Apple’s Mail application. While getting the certificates and keychain access all worked out wasn’t the most straightforward task (it wasn’t hard though), now that it is set up, signing and encrypting messages is very easy.

Author: Davin Granroth

Davin is Chief Operating Officer for Covenant Eyes, Inc. in Owosso, MI, USA, where he gets to mix his background in user experience design, research, and strategy with the operation of a software company. For more, see his LinkedIn profile.

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